Hell Unearthed

by Hilary McElwaine

Historical fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Hell Unearthed

This is a very interesting and thought provoking read, regardless of whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not.

'Hell Unearthed' is Hilary McElwaine's interpretation and updating of Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', the first part of his 'Divine Comedy', written between 1308 and 1320. In the original, hell is described in graphic and gruesome detail before leading the reader through purgatory and finally to the salvation of paradise. This author has adapted Dante's work for a modern audience, providing many recent examples of behaviour, which although generally condemned, doesn't always make for comfortable reading. The book keeps to Dante's original map of nine downward circles of hell, through which he is guided by Virgil, who he greatly admired. As the pair travel deeper, the tormented souls they encounter are guilty of more and more serious crimes, though I find it disturbing and hard to accept that, for instance, someone who has betrayed a client in business is on a lower level than a paedophile like Jimmy Savile, because he or she has used their intellect to commit their crime. This is not of course necessarily the author's view but some of her more modern day examples include veritable icons like David Bowie, Princess Diana, Elvis and Horatio Nelson, which many readers, myself included, would view as controversial and upsetting. These are far outweighed though by the examples of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Al Capone, Myra Hindley and the like, who committed terrible acts of violence against humanity. Also in line with the original, some fictional perpetrators of wickedness are included, which I found rather strange, as there are surely more than enough real life evildoers to fill the chapters, both then and now. This is a very interesting and thought provoking read, regardless of whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not and I do hope that the author will go on to rework the other two books in the 'Comedy', as Dante is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of all time and deserves to be introduced to a wider and younger audience in the same way that Shakespeare has been. 

Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

LoveReading Ambassador

Hell Unearthed Synopsis

Hell Unearthed charts Dante’s journey, guided by his hero, Virgil, through the underworld. In this modern version of Inferno, the cast of sinners Dante meets includes gangsters, dictators, pop stars, sports stars, princes and princesses. These characters’ stories will be familiar to many and they sit alongside sinners drawn from classical mythology as well as the heroes and villains from Dante’s contemporary medieval Tuscany. The tormented souls we witness in Hell Unearthed prompt questions about life, happiness, greatness, our relationship with society and with our friends and family. Do we really suffer for our wrongdoings after we have died? What is happiness? What is it to achieve greatness in life, and how it that greatness viewed in the afterlife? How should we live our lives to ensure happiness or salvation after we die? What makes society and local communities strong? The message remains the same as Dante’s original. Happiness is achieved through peace and stability in government with clear moral guidance coming from a spiritual power. We need to nurture our relationships with others in society and be mindful of causing harm. What we achieve in life, and how, will ultimately be judged by God. Hell Unearthed expands Dante’s world to show that people across geographical, cultural and religious divides can be guilty of the same human failings. Recognition of the universality of sin should be a unifying process and that was certainly also Dante’s intention with Inferno.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781789632316
Publication date: 1st September 2021
Author: Hilary McElwaine
Publisher: The Choir Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 220 pages
Primary Genre Historical fiction
Other Genres:
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What To Read After Hell Unearthed

Free Love
The Key In The Lock
The Silver Collar
The Ashes of London

Hilary McElwaine Press Reviews

Your idiom has a modern air, but with touches that stop it being overly conversational, not least in keeping crucial Dantesque images. The result should prove approachable and engaging for novice readers, in part through making Dante not quite our contemporary. Professor Peter Hainsworth, University Lecturer in Italian and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.;Hell Unearthed is the ideal book for the neophyte who wishes to approach the greatness and depth of Dante's Hell. Whereas the Gate of the third canto invites those who enter it to lose all hope, I would dare to say that Hilary McElwaine's book is the Gate that gives all hope to those who have the courage to discover the journey of the Divine Comedy for the first time. Santy Masciaro, Founder of the Dante Society, London.

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781789632316
Publication date: 01/09/2021
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781789632064
Publication date: 01/09/2021
Format: Paperback

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